Magic Coffee Beans!

I don’t think I can imagine my life without coffee. A hot, strong cup of freshly ground coffee is exactly what I need to get started in the morning – and it’s my constant companion throughout the day. I’m a firm believer in those magic beans, and what’s great about filtered coffee is that it not only tastes so much better than instant brands, but you can also recycle the grounds in a variety of ways to help the environment.

Coffee houses have also cottoned on to the power of their coffee grounds. Back in 1995, Starbucks introduced ‘Grounds for Your Garden’, offering customers complimentary five-pound bags of used coffee grounds to enrich their garden soil. The scheme is still going strong, with many coffee houses now also diverting their coffee grounds for commercial composting, thus reducing the volume of coffee grounds and other food waste ending up in local landfill.

So, if you’re a coffee lover, here are our top 10 ideas for turning those magic beans into green beans:

1. Treat your plants to a coffee-flavored drink
Mix your old coffee grounds with water to feed your plants. Rich in potassium and nitrogen, this ‘energy drink’ will help your plants flourish.

2. Eliminate bad odors
Gentry dry your grounds in a warm oven. Place them in an old sock or stocking and place them in your fridge and food cupboards to minimize or eliminate strong odors.

3. Wake up your worms
If you have a wormery, add your coffee grounds. The caffeine will wake up your worms and have them chomping through your waste more efficiently than before! It’s probably a good idea to mix the grounds with other food waste, so the worms don’t have a caffeine overdose!

4. Put pests in their place
If your garden is plagued with ants and other pests, put a ring of coffee grounds around the plants you wish to protect. The grounds should discourage unwanted visitors.

5. Coffee compost
Coffee grounds will enrich your compost pile, adding vital nutrients. Many shops and suppliers also sell biodegradable filter papers, making it really easy to dispose of used grounds straight into your compost bin.

6. Clear out your drains
Dispose of some of your coffee grounds down your drains to help gently clear out any debris and keep them functioning properly.

7. Watch scratches disappear!
If you own dark wood furniture, your coffee grounds can help to disguise scratches and other wear and tear. Simply soak the grounds in a small amount of hot water, drain off and then apply the liquid solution to damaged areas. Your furniture should look good as new!

8. De-ice
Coffee grounds are a great way to thaw slippery sidewalks, driveways and garden paths. Simply sprinkle a handful of grounds in the icy areas, and watch snow and ice melt away!

9. Scrub up nicely
Wet or dry grounds are great in tackling greasy pots, pans and grills. Use a handful alongside your regular detergent to help remove stubborn grease and food.

10. Pamper yourself!
Coffee grounds are great exfoliants – use a tablespoon-full of grounds with your regular soap to buff your face and body.
As you can see, there are plenty of positive ways to re-use your coffee grounds. I hope these top tips will inspire you to put those magic beans to good use!

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Getting Your Caffeine Fix Without Harming The Environment

Coffee is one of the most contentious products which we consume. With electricity being used up each time we fire up the kettle, and a history of exploitation behind the import of coffee beans, it can be easy to be put off when we think about brewing our nation’s favorite beverage. However, things have moved on in the world of coffee over the past few years, meaning that you can actually do some good with your morning fix, rather than damaging the environment. Read on to find out more…

Purchase it ethically

Fairtrade certified products are becoming more widely available, and coffee is no exception. The Fairtrade certification (Fair Trade Certified in the US) is a system designed to allow us to identify products that meet agreed environmental, labor and developmental standards. The system is monitored by a standard-setting body, FLO International, and a certification body, FLO-CERT. It works by auditing producers to ensure the agreed standards are met. Companies that sell products under Fairtrade standards apply for licenses to use the Certification Mark (or, in North America, the applicable Fair Trade Certified Mark) for those products. Buying Fairtrade is a simple way of making sure that your coffee is produced and sold ethically.

Brew it greenly

Using an eco-kettle to heat you water cuts down on the energy used to power the device. Nowadays, you can even invest in a cool Electricity-Free Espresso machine to brew the perfect drink. The stylish machine produces the pressure needed to make café-style coffee in your own home, without the associated energy costs.

To use it, all you need to do is put your favorite coffee in the steel filter, pour boiling water in to the heat proof cylinder at the top. By lifting the lever arms, putting your cup in to position and then lowering the arms, you trap the air and force water through the coffee at high pressure into your cup. ‘Press’ is made from solid, polished aluminum, and is available for around $140 at eco retail stores online.

Recycle the waste

Coffee grounds are famous for their great properties on your garden. Composting your grounds or sprinkling them on the garden nourishes your plants and assists in completing the perfect cycle for a great environmentally-friendly brew. The grounds also have the advantage of deterring slugs and snails from your vegetable patch and smell fantastic if they get warmed by the sun.

Personal Reusable Hand Towels

I saw this on Springwise the other week and had to share it. I’m not sure whether I’m doing it to be eco-friendly or I’m just lazy but I often don’t dry my hands properly after washing them in public toilets. You have to spend 15 minutes under the warm air dryer or use about 10 pathetic paper towels. So often the back pockets of my jeans come in handy.

So imagine my delight in reading about eco-friendly, reusable hand towels. California-based PeopleTowels is trying to encourage people to carry their own hand towels with them.

The pocket-sized towels are quick drying, made from 100% fair trade cotton, made with environmentally friendly dyes and have handy hang tags to attach to your bag.

They cost US$8 for a single towel or US$21 for a three-towel set and 1% of PeopleTowels’ sales profits go to 1% for The Planet. It’s said that by: “switching to its towels for one year, each consumer can save one-quarter of a tree, reduce landfill waste by 23lbs and conserve 250 gallons of water.”

PeopleTowels

Fairtrade Ice Cream from Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s have gone 100% Fairtrade (where possible), at least in Europe.

“All the chunks, all the swirls, all the flavours in every tub, in all 18 countries in Europe, will be 100% Fairtrade by the end of 2011. It’s a massive investment – but we know it’s an investment worth making.”

They launched their first Fairtrade ice cream in 2006, and by April 2010, 60% of their ice cream will be Fairtrade. There are four currently already certified Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Macadamia, Vanilla and Vanilla Toffee Crunch. Baked Alaska, Caramel Chew Chew, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, and Phish Foo will be ones that follow this year.

The video below shows Ben and Jerry talking about their new Fairtrade promise:

Traidcraft Fair Trade Rubber Gloves Eco Product Review

Just a quick review this week as it was something I bought not planning to review but because I needed a pair of rubber gloves. I picked up this pair of Traidcraft Fair Trade Rubber Gloves from some supermarket, I actually can’t remember, but when I was using them recently (during a blocked up sink incident I’m trying very hard to forget) I thought I must write about them.

Traidcraft rubber gloves

Traidcraft work with a company in Sri Lanka called Firstlight (named after the fact farmers tap the rubber trees first thing in the morning) to pay farmers a regualr and fair wage and offer them assistance with equipment and technical support.

There’s not much else to say about the the gloves, they fit nicely (size medium) and have a little bit of grip on the fingers to help. I don’t really know why you would but non-Fair Trade rubber gloves, especially as they’re only around £1. You can learn more about Traidcraft here and buy the gloves from supermarkets and online from places like Big Green Smile.

Fairtrade Fortnight

Fairtrade Fortnight starts on 25th Feb and lasts until the 9th March this year. One company, Cafédirect, is launching a new rich full-bodied coffee from the very best Costa Rican coffee beans, called Special Selection Costa Rica – a premium, 100% Fairtrade, instant coffee.

I’m, not a coffee drinker, but chances are a lot of you are. Apparently Special Selection is a new seasonal line in instant coffee that follows the different coffee harvests around the world, capturing the beans at their prime. Once Special Selection coffee beans are picked, “they are carefully hand selected by Cafédirect’s growers to create a coffee that is both unique in character and taste”.

Cafédirect is a company we’ve mentioned many times, firstly I used to work by their offices, but more importantly they pay fair prices for its crops, so you can rest assured that while you enjoy your cuppa, you also contribute to improving the quality of life for growers in developing countries. In addition Cafédirect reinvests its profits into tailor-made training and development programmes, working directly with its growers to develop their expertise.

You can pick up a 100g jar of Special Selection Costa Rica from Oxfam stores in the UK, for around £3.25.

Ewan McGregor travels the Long Way Down with Cafédirect

Cafédirect, the UK’s largest 100% Fairtrade hot drinks company sent us details of how they helped Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have a regular caffeine fix as they travelled the Long Way Down through Europe and Africa.

They rode from Scotland to South Africa, through 20 countries. As part of their intrepid 15,000 mile motorcycle adventure, which started in May 2007 in John O’Groats and arrived in Cape Town early August, Ewan and Charley visited Uganda. There they met Cafédirect’s grower partners at the Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative – suppliers of Cafédirect Mount Elgon gourmet coffee beans. During their visit they mastered the art of coffee “cupping” (tasting) and learnt how to ‘shlurp and spit’ like professional tasters!

Ewan and Charley

You can watch Ewan and Charley talking to Willington Wamameye, Manager of the Gumutindo Co-operative, on the BBC LWD website.

The adventure will be shown on BBC 2 and Fox TV, starting 28 October 2007. For more information visit: www.longwaydown.com.